Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space: Episode 1 (360): COMPLETED

With Back to the Future out of the way, I really needed to do more Telltale point-and-clicky stuff. I’ve been after Season 2 of Sam & Max for the Wii for ages, but it was delayed and delayed, and then when it finally did come out, immediately went out of stock everywhere never to return. So I sucked it up and got it on XBLA instead.

It follows on pretty much from the end of the last episode of the first season, with Sam’s office in much the same, perhaps worse, state. Unlike Back to the Future, it’s a proper point and click, so the controls actually work here. Unlike Back to the Future, and just like the first season of Sam & Max, the puzzles are bizarre and the solutions obscure, so although it wasn’t exactly a long game, saving Christmas from a possessed Santa (yeah, that’s the plot) did take a fair while due to getting stuck a few times.

Games I’ve Played In The Last Week Or Two

Haven’t had an update post in a while, and I’ve been trying out lots of different games over the last couple of weeks and not made mention of them here, so here’s a roundup:

Say What You See (iOS)
A series of pictures with hidden clues to game titles, films, etc. Like a cross between Where’s Wally? and a cryptic crossword. There are number of “canvases”, and I’ve been playing the Arcade Games one. Completed it, but some of them were a complete pig. Like, which arcade game is denoted by a picture of a goat’s head on a piece of paper? No idea? Exactly.

Super Mario All-Stars (Wii)
I got this for my birthday. Yeah, it’s a bit cheeky being nothing more than the SNES Mario All-Stars cartridge on a Wii disc, but it is a collection of some of the best platformers ever. So there.

Little Big Planet (PS3)
One of the free “Sorry our security was crap, everyone – here, have some old games for free ‘cos everyone has stopped buying them now anyway” games from Sony. It took three thousand years to download, and I’ve played the tutorial level and a couple of other levels. Thoughts: it looks nice, but controls horribly. The into and out-of the screen moving (especially when jumping up) is rubbish. Sackboy’s physics feel wrong. The pop-up menu to access stickers and stuff is annoying, particularly when the camera zooms into your face meaning you can’t see where on the playfield you’re putting your stickers. I might get used to it all, but, y’know, I still have the woeful PS3 controller to contend with.

James Pond 2: Robocod (PS1 on PS3)
Free for the duration of my free month’s worth of PS+. And an utterly horrible, bastardised version of one of my favourite platformers ever – it’s even worse than the DS version. I never want to play it again.

Street Gangs (NES on Wii)
It’s like playing a retro version of Scott Pilgrim! ūüôā Lovely game. Not far in though.

Muscle March (Wii)
Why didn’t I get this not-gay, manly game for manly men a long time ago? It’s like Hole in the Wall, only less camp! Amazing.

Lasercat (360)
The ugvm people recommended this Indie game as a sort of Jet Set Willy-alike. I can see what they mean, but the¬†sparseness¬†of the rooms (many of which are completely devoid of, well, anything) and the lack of things to collect (only 20 keys), in addition to the silly trivia questions, put me off a bit. I think I’d have enjoyed it more if JSW hadn’t been mentioned. It’s not bad, but not what I wanted.

Contra (360)
This XBLA game was on offer at 200 Microsoft Moon Points a few weeks ago, so I bought it. Never really was a fan of Contra (or “Probotector”, as I always knew it), but it’s fun, if totally impossible. Managed to get to the boss of level 3 before I ran out of credits.

Magic Sword (360): COMPLETED!

Yes. That is the image for Final Fight: Double Impact right there. There’s a reason for that! Final Fight: Double Impact is actually two games – Final Fight and Magic Sword. I assume the arcade machines use the same hardware or something, as there’s no other way these are connected.

Whereas Final Fight was great compared to Burning Fight, I suppose Magic Sword is similar, but better than, Magician Lord. I mean, the names even rhyme. Magic Sword is still pretty pants though, sadly.

All the better then that it was completed quickly and now I don’t have to play it any more!

Final Fight (360): COMPLETED!

Since I’m on a smacking-things-in-the-face spree at the moment, and this was on offer on XBLA recently, I played it and completed it today.

My word, is it a billion times better than Burning Fight. It’s so much smoother. So much, I don’t know – less old and creaky and more responsive and just better.

Played it from start to finish with Cody, missing out on the achievement for completing it using 18 or fewer credits, by using 19 credits. The last of which was on the final boss. When he had a mere sliver of health left. Bah.

X-Men (360): COMPLETED!

A week or so ago, or maybe longer – I can’t remember – both this and Crazy Taxi were on sale on XBLA. X-Men, a release of the 6-player scrolling beat-em-up from yesteryear was reduced to an Almost Free cost of just 200 Microsoft Moon Dollars, something like ¬£1.70. Hell, I’d probably have put more than that into the original arcade machine.

I played it today, and, what with it being rather short, completed it. Six times. Once with each character.

Things that I liked included the brainless punching and kicking, and things that I disliked included the length (30 minutes or so to complete) and the lack of baddie variety: there are 5. And some bosses, but they then have a SuckySuck(TM) bit at the end so that positive is negated. Oh, and some of the achievements are broken. Example: I should have the “kill Magneto with each character” one, but haven’t.

Overall: sort of fun, worth ¬£1.70, probably won’t play again.

Crazy Taxi (360)

This was on offer a little while back on XBLA, for 400 points. I decided, even though it’s a poor port and doesn’t have any Offspring music (TEEEEEN TWEEENNNTY TEEEEN!!!) I’d take a punt anyway for that price.

And it’s actually pretty good. Sure, it’s rough looking, and yeah, I miss the music. Worst of all, I keep getting stuck inside things – trees, signs, walls… but it is still fun. So far I’ve C-Ranked Arcade Mode, A-Ranked Original Mode, and completed 1-1, 1-2 and 1-3 of Crazy Box. 1-S is, of course, impossible.

It’s also a pain that there are achievements for getting Rank S, A, B and C, but getting a higher rank doesn’t unlock the lower ones too. This means, in order to get the B and C rank achievements for Original Mode, I have to purposefully play badly, which is utterly stupid.

Pac-Man Championship Edition DX (360): COMPLETED!

My eyes! My beautiful, burning eyes! The neon! So bright and hurty!

I’ve been a little addicted to this for the last few days. So much so, that I’ve managed to both complete each and every one of the 100+ game modes, come top of my friend’s leaderboard (by quite some way) and get ranked in the top 1.5% of all players in the world. And got all the achievements. Completed!

All this came at a cost, though. My eyes. Burning like fire. Everything is so fast and reckless and glowy and constantly changing. And I love it.

Sonic Adventure (360): COMPLETED!

You know what? I actually really rather enjoyed that.

I mean, it’s short, and the camera is a work of wonk, and the bit with the stone water snake in the ruins near the end was just stupid (mainly because of the camera) and the end boss was a pain because Sonic would glitch through him rather than homing attack him (so I’d die) but it didn’t really seem to matter. I had fun, and for all of its faults and stuff, its still eleventybillion times better than pretty much any other Sonic game of recent years. And I’ve just realised – Sonic Adventure is TWELVE years old. Good grief.

Did I go back and play as the other characters? No. Because they’re all dead to me.

Sonic Adventure (360)

I’ve completed it $hlmun times. I still think it’s the second best 3D Sonic game. I bought it last week when it was on offer, and have been playing through as Sonic.

At first, I thought, what? This is utter rubbish. I don’t remember it being this rubbish! I fell through the floor in the same place on the first level on my first go and lost all my lives. WHAT? RUBBISH!

But then, despite Tails’ appearance and the (let’s be truthful now) awful between-stages running around only vaguely knowing where to go, it still somehow works. The levels, although a bit glitchy, are mostly wonderful (especially Twinkle Park so far), and although it looks old and graphically isn’t amazing (draw distance in particular is nasty – but that’s mainly due to it being a port of the PC version not the DC or GC one), it’s still a lot of fun.

Oh, and the voice acting? Aside from Eggman, it’s awful.

A World of Keflings (360): COMPLETED!

It’s more of the first game, only with minor irritations removed, the way you build things made clearer (it’s now more obvious which factory you get specific items from), less to-ing and fro-ing (you get helpers that can carry building parts, and even build buildings, for you), and three different kingdoms to help out.

So, really, it’s the same as the first game but nicer to play. Which is all you want from it! Lovely and relaxing, genuinely funny, and a high Columbo Factor to keep you playing. I still have one achievement to get, but I’m not far off that.

Also! First day of 2011 and first completed game of 2011! Total play time, just under 6 hours.

Super Meat Boy (360)

I’ve been waiting for this for ages, and if it wasn’t for New Vegas I’d have pounced on it the second it appeared on XBLA. As it is, I decided to play it last night instead of roam the Wasteland some more.

In theory, it is fantastic. The graphic style is lovely, the funny touches (like the skit of the Street Fighter II opening sequence), and the blood OH THE GLORIOUS BLOOD everywhere are amazing. It’s a simple, difficult, precision platformer. Which, after nearly finishing off the first two levels reminded me of something else: N+.

N+ is virtually the same game. They feel the same. They control almost the same. They’re both bloody difficult. Which leaves me with a problem. I gave up on N+ as it just got too hard. I feel Super Meat Boy might be going that way too. We’ll see.

Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 1 (360): COMPLETED!

Shall we not even start on the “but you said”s and the “why did you”s please? Thanks. That makes it much easier, as I feel bad enough already.

In between bouts of Progress Bar Champion, I actually got time to play the 360 version of Sonic 4. Shush. We agreed! Time to play – and complete it, in fact. Perhaps it is best to compare this to the iPhone version, rather than just repeat myself.

Firstly, there are two different levels. Casino Ni^H^HStreet Act 2, which on the iPhone was a rubbish “Get 100,000 points!” level rather than a proper level, has been replaced with a quite pleasing, but very easy and extralifemungus dice-and-cards themed normal style level. And yes, extra lives were literally mungus. I started with 9, and finished the level with 34. And I died a few times. Madness.

The other different level is Lost Labyrinth 2. On the iPhone it was the worst level in any game ever made ever – a tilty mine cart level with gravity that was all over the place and makes me cry just thinking about it. It’s been replaced with Sonic in the Dark, where you have to walk slowly through a dark mine, holding a torch and lighting candle things. RUBBISH.

The special stages have somehow been broken further since the iPhone game. They’re the same, only now you use the control stick to rotate the levels rather than tilt the phone. It sounds like it should improve things, but – of course – it doesn’t. The stick makes the level rotate far too quickly making the stages unnecessarily harder. RUBBISH.

For some reason, the graphics looks wrong on the 360 too. Everything is too big, like the screen is zoomed in too far. Rings are about 1/3 of the screen each (roughly) and Sonic appears to be made of glossy plastic. RUBBISH.

It’s not all worse though. The controls are, generally, much better, and not having thumbs covering half the screen makes some of the bosses much easier to beat as you’re not relying on luck in doing so. Sadly, almost everything else that was bad about the iPhone game has made it over intact.

It’s all completed now, so we never need to play it again. And I mean it this time.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World (360): COMPLETED!

Amazing. Just utterly amazing. It’s a totally new, but totally retro, video game that plays fantastically, and is even better than the games it apes.

I won’t spoil it all, but I do need to say how much I enjoyed spotting references to other games in this one – both in the levels, and the items you can buy. I love that sort of stuff.

If you haven’t already, buy it now.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World (360)

I’ve not read the comics. I’ve not seen the film. But, after seeing just a handful of screenshots a few weeks ago for the game, I knew I’d want it. So confident was I, that I didn’t even bother trying the demo – I stumped up my 800 Microsoft Moon Pounds and bought the full game.

And I was right – I love it. It’s a great mix of River City Ransom, Guardian Heroes, Streets of Rage, and that Puffy AmiYumi DS game I quite enjoyed a few years ago. The retro graphics were always going to appeal to me, and the collect money to buy power-ups and character level progression suit my OCD perfectly.

The fighting is pretty good too, with more moves unlocked as you level up, and attacks becoming faster and stronger as you buy “upgrades” from the various shops. It’s a shame this is all lost on those trying the demo – as on Level 1 with no extra moves, the game is reduced to a painfully slow, difficult, brawler with only a couple of moves to pull off. I wonder how many people tried the demo and were put off?

I’ve just beaten Evil Ex-Boyfriend #3, and am now going to rinse the first couple of levels a few times for more money for stat increases. Again.

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (360): COMPLETED!

I was one of the lucky ones to get a free code for this, since The Times cocked up and allowed their “subscriber only” offer to be accessible to all and sundry. I’d just played the demo too, and was about to buy it anyway when I realised I had enough other games to be getting on with so would wait for a price drop. Ten minutes later – free code!

You’ll be noticing that there’s no “Tomb Raider” in the title. There are, however, tombs (of a sort) to traverse, and indeed “raid”, but the developers have chosen to distance this a bit from those platforming, 3rd person puzzle shooting games, instead turning this into a sort of grown-up Lego Indiana Jones crossed with the likes of Geometry Wars. No, stay with me on this…

You see, it’s a simplified Tomb Raider, in terms of types, quantity and complexity of puzzles. Puzzles much like those in the Lego games. There are also some objects that can only be destroyed or activated with certain weapons – like in the Lego games. And it’s all viewed from a sort of isometric angle, not entirely unlike the Lego games. Then there’s the combat, which is pretty standard twin-stickery, like Geometry Wars (and 446512 other games). See? That wasn’t so hard to imagine, was it?

But is it any good? Let me put it this way – I got it on Friday, completed it on Sunday, and it was the only game I played (or even wanted to play). So yes, it’s good. It’s short (although there are more episodes planned as DLC), at around 4-5 hours, and pretty easy, but it was great fun and it surprised me how well a Tomb Raider game could work when not actually presented like a Tomb Raider game.

The only real disappointments were that the end boss was far too easy, and some of the game is repetitive. It also suffers a bit from a cliché of how to make games harder later on: simply have more baddies.